Volume 42, Issue 3 (May 1997)
Pollen Composition in a Crashed Plane's Engine
Pollen removed from engine tubing of a crashed plane near Ruidoso, New Mexico, which had been stored outdoors in partially broken boxes from May to October following a December crash, consisted almost entirely of insect-pollinated types at the near exclusion of wind-pollinated pollen. Plants producing both groups of pollen were found immediately adjacent to the stored engine parts, with many wind-pollinated species shedding abundant atmospheric pollen during the flowering season. There is no known mechanism whereby insect-pollinated types could selectively have been filtered from the air at the exclusion of the predominant wind-pollinated ones. Thus, the pollen part of the mass found in the tubing could not have accumulated either suddenly or over time while the plane was in operation, and therefore the mass must have been a post-crash accumulation. Furthermore, pollen taken from the same mass initiated pollen tube expansion in a sucrose solution and both pollen cytoplasm and walls appeared normal in TEM sections in contrast to pollen charred for only 5 min at 250°C (the crashed engine burned for many hours reaching at least 1000°C). Pollen examined from the engine tubing could only have been deposited after the crash occurred.